HACK/SLASH THE SERIES #15
Re-Animator: 1 of 3
Author: Tim Seeley
Artists: Emily Stone & Courtney Via
Cover Artists: A) Tim Seeley; B) Joe Jusko
The Re-Animator enters the world of Hack/Slash...
32pgs, FC $3.50
Newsarama contacted Hack/Slash writer/artist Tim Seeley and filmmaker Brian Yuzna to talk about this monumental cross-over as well as to discuss their feelings on the translation of horror stories over a number of different types of media.
Newsarama: How did this project come to pass? Tying a cult-favorite comic like Hack/Slash into a cult-classic horror movie like Re-Animator seems like such a serendipitous no-brainer for Devil's Due as well as horror fans. How easily do these two properties segue together?
Tim Seeley: I want to make sure I do crossovers that only totally make sense for the story. As a kid, I could always tell when an issue of a series had been shoe-horned into a crossover event or saddled with a "hot character appearance." So, when I was planning out these issues initially, Herbert instantly came to mind to fill an important roll. This'll be a very seamless entry into the Hack/Slash mythos. Also, it'll be fun as hell, and full of gross shit. Stefan Hutchinson (writer of the Halloween comics for DDP) knew a guy who knew a guy, and he hooked me up with Barry Keating who helps Brian Yuzna out. He and I started talking, and pretty quickly we had an outline and a syringe full of glowing green goo.
Brian Yuzna: The project was presented to me by a comic writer I have been working with, Barry Keating. He talked to Devil’s Due and made the initial contact with me. After seeing some of the unauthorized Re-Animator crossover books out there, I thought it was time to have a real one. I like the Hack/Slash comic—it has a perfect horror/comedy tone that I thought could work with Re-Animator. It isn’t a perfect fit because Hack/Slash has a mythology that can be a little different from the world of Herbert West and his ‘Life is just a chemical reaction’ logic—but for the most part, it works pretty well so far.
NRAMA: Tim, care to give readers a taste of what's to come?
TS: Essentially, readers will finally get to meet Cassie's long lost Dad, a man we've been teasing the existence of since the first issue. But, ol' Jack Hack has some questionable connections, and we'll see how that affects his daughter and her big, meaty partner.
NRAMA: Brian, how involved have you been with the project? Were there any prerequisites from you before Tim could handle Dr. Herbert West?
BY: I have been involved mainly insofar as the depiction of Herbert West and how the Re-Animator world goes. I have been in the loop on the covers and the scripts. Devil’s Due has been very good about making sure that I am happy with things and has tried to compromise on any discrepancies I may have had. My only prerequisite was that Barry Keating be a part of the writing team and that I have approval over the depiction of the Herbert West character and the Re-Animator elements.
NRAMA: Tim, you're tying Cassie's father into the mythos of the Re-Animator franchise by connecting him to Dr. West--can you elaborate on any of this for readers?
TS We've seen that Jack has been involved in a government project involving REVENANTS, the fancy name for Slashers in the Hack/Slash universe. Something the government really likes about these Revenants is that they reanimate. Herbert is also known to like to bring the occasional very cranky person back from the dead.
NRAMA: What do you think makes franchises like Hack/Slash and Re-Animator develop such die-hard fan bases? Is there a core creative element that both of these franchises share beyond the fact that they are horror stories?
BY: It is very interesting how passionate and dedicated horror fans are, both in film and in comics—or literature for that matter. Re-Animator and Hack/Slash have similar aesthetics, the somewhat “transgressive” ironic tone; it’s a type of hardcore horror that is fun—for some reason this type of stuff attracts real dedication in the fans. I am a fan myself and love the horror films that I grew up with—just like the younger fans today who grew up with Re-Animator—so it’s a feeling I certainly understand.
TS Both, at their hearts, are humorous character sketches. I think the black humor of both series makes them more fun than the standard grim and gritty scare fest, which, while is good for a scream, doesn't always pass the test of time. Re-Animator does and I hope Hack/Slash will.
NRAMA: Brian, would you ever be interested telling more of Dr. West's story in the form of a comic book or would you rather be involved with motion picture projects?
BY: I am working on a comic book version of the first movie right now; and I plan to go onto the second film after that. I’d also like to tell the story of what happened between the two films as well. I have a basic structure set up for at least 3 more films: House of the Re-Animator, Re-Animator Unbound, and Re-Animator Begins. These films would complete the Herbert West Saga (as depicted in the movies). Since it is so difficult to finance and develop movies—I have discussed with my collaborators retelling the first stories and then introducing the additional material that has not made it onscreen yet. I have been working in comics and animation for the past few years and have found it to be just as much fun as film. Things move very quickly and you aren’t so pressured to attract the broadest possible audience. I love the graphics of comics—my first experiences with horror were from reading horror comics when I was very young which happened a long time before I saw my first horror movie. Through working with horror comics recently, I’ve realized that it’s just as thrilling for me to tell stories on paper as opposed to film. It’s really about the story and the art of storytelling that gets me off.
NRAMA: Tim, do you see Hack/Slash as a meta-horror bridge to a number of horror franchises? Would you want to do a Hack/ Slash with Stef Hutchinson involving 'the Shape'?
TS I would have loved to do Halloween with Hack/Slash, but the owners of the film series have a strict no crossovers policy. Thus, you'll also never see a Pinhead vs. Michael film, and Michael vs. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. But, yeah, I go by the rule that all slasher films and many horror movies exist within the same universe—a universe which Hack/Slash is a part of.
NRAMA: Do either of you think that there is a limit to the type of horror/ gore you can expose your audience to? It seems like you could go a few steps further in a comic book as opposed to a film that has to be rated by the MPAA. Is that an advantage, disadvantage, or double-edged sword?
TS: Yeah, the freedom can work against you. I tend to think Hack/Slash can be read by a smart 14-year-old and up—so I try to keep it from being something that gets put on a high shelf in the store in a black bag. But, when it's necessary, I'm okay with pushing the envelope. Really, the average issue of Hack/Slash isn't much gorier than an issue of Invincible.
BY: I don’t think that showing more or less gore is such an issue; it’s really the set-up that counts. There are plenty of movies that show lots of gore that I don’t find very entertaining. I don’t know really what the restrictions are on comics because I haven’t run into any kind of barrier yet. There are things in movies that can go too far, but usually its based in the depiction. It seems to me that some video games successfully depict more gore and graphic violence than films or comics do; they do it in such a way that films can’t because of how real it all seems. A very stylish film can get away with more horror. A comic, by its nature, is stylish. In a way, comic book fans are basically art fans—they love the graphics—and superior graphics can depict almost any subject in a mostly acceptable way.
NRAMA: Ultimately, where do you see these two franchises going, Tim? Do you see them becoming more ingrained in popular culture as they merge together in this project?
TS: I hope so. Re-Animator is already a part of popular culture—and I hope someday horror fans can think of Hack/Slash as fondly as they do so many great horror hits. I want there to be more venues for cool horror stuff than just film, and I want horror fans to read comics, and comic fans to read horror. If having a guest appearance by Dr. West will help that, that's just icing on the corpse!
NRAMA: Tim, could this type of crossover be the finally piece to the puzzle that could really make Hack/Slash stand out as the horror comic to read in the industry? Or do you think that this type of exposure, if overdone, could make the title a victim of a really cool gimmick?
TS It'll always be a balance. The ongoing story and the characters always have to be most important, and a crossover can only come up when it fits really well. So, if there's just no way to get Dr. Giggles in here or Critters without it screwing up the story, I can't do it. I think readers will see through ads and hype and know that. I want to draw in the horror crowd which normally views comics as "those pamphlets with douches in tights in 'em," so this kind of thing does help when it's done properly. I still get letters from people who say the Chucky crossover was the first Hack/Slash book (or comic book for that matter) that they'd ever picked up.
NRAMA: Could there be a larger renaissance for cult-classic horror properties in film and comics on the horizon? Or are we already there?
TS For sure. We're in a weird lull in film right now where there's very few wide release, bigger budget horror films to really grab onto to. There are no great new villains, and very few memorable flicks period. If Hollywood isn't going to give us new Michaels, Jasons, Herbert Wests, or Maniac Cops, we may as well enjoy the great ones we already love in the format of comics.
Besides hunting the undead, Cassie and Vlad have also been looking for Cassie's missing father, Dr. Jack Hack, a man she hasn't seen since childhood. This week's "Hack/Slash" #15 begins a storyline that finally reunites Cassie with her estranged father. Unfortunately for her, the path to her father will bring Cassie face to face with a man notorious for bringing the dead back to life, Doctor Herbert West of the cult-favorite "Re-Animator" horror films. CBR News spoke with Seeley about the storyline and his other plans for "Hack/Slash."
Cassie first met Vlad in Chicago, where he had been living a hermitlike existence on the city's streets because of his hulking and misshapen form. Since he began traveling with Cassie, the gentle giant has not only learned more about the world but he's also become quite the detective as well. In the recent "Hack/Slash" #14, it was Vlad's skills as a tracker that saved a friend from a Slasher. "Vlad is developing a bit as a character. He has good survival instincts and a good eye --something he developed living off the streets before he met Cass," Seeley told CBR News. "Cass is the looks and the ferocity. Vlad is the brains and the power."
Much of Cassie's ferocity comes from her issues with her parents, into which Seeley will delve deeply starting with "Hack/Slash" #15. "The 'Re-Animator' crossover probably looks like a bit of a 'for the sake of sales' kind of event, but really, this is a storyline that's really been worked up to for a bit, and fully involves a lot of members of the 'H/S' cast," Seeley explained. "We've been sorta diddlin' around with Cass's dad for a few years even! So, all of Cass's issues, feelings and problems come to a head in these three issues!"
Cassie's father made his first physical appearance in issue #14, when he descended into a basement to approach Dr. Herbert West (aka Mr. Lazarus) for help. "Jack is a flawed guy--very flawed, and we'll see what makes him strike a deal with a guy like Herbert," Seeley said. "One of the things I always liked about Herbert West was that he's never the hero of the ['Re-Animator'] movies, but he's not the bad guy either. He exists in an interesting grey area, an area that we'll see Jack Hack is pretty familiar with."
Seeley sees Herbert West as being a shining example of the old cliché about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. "West is a scientist first and foremost. And ultimately, his goal of defeating death is a noble endeavor," Seeley said of the character played in three films by Jeffrey Combs. "West's evil comes in his blind pursuit of his goal. Herbert would never outright hurt an innocent-- but lots of people have been hurt by his experiments and work.
"In the 'H/S' crossover West will play the role he's played in the films-- anti-hero, villain, protagonist, and all around great character."
Chronologically, Herbert West's appearance in "Hack/Slash" takes place after the third "Re-Animator" film, "Beyond Re-Animator." "Though it's fairly unnecessary to have seen that movie--or really any of the movies if you choose, to enjoy the crossover," Seeley stated. "Personally though, I recommend any 'H/S' reader treats themselves, at least to the first film and the second one, 'Bride of Re-Animator,' for sure."
The "Hack/Slash" and "Re-Animator" crossover is a three-issue arc that unfolds in "Hack/Slash" #15-17. "Cass, searching for her father --after discovering a list of his new identities in issue # 10-- finds Jack Hack just as he's about to partner with Herbert West in an experiment that Cass and Vlad will find personally interesting," Seeley said.
The machinations of West and Jack Hack also mean Cassie will encounter once again her most terrifying adversary. "Two words," Seeley teased. "Lunch Lady!!!"
The "Re-Animator" arc of "Hack/Slash" is very new-reader-friendly. Seeley designed it so that fans who have never read a "Hack/Slash" comic or seen a "Re-Animator" film could understand and enjoy the tale, but the story also has plenty to offer long time "Hack/Slash" fans as well. "Threads we began at the very beginning of the ongoing all come to head here!" Seeley promised.
The chance to use film character Dr. Herbert West in the Devil's Due comic book came about because of Stefan Hutchinson, the writer of DDP's comics based on the "Halloween" film franchise. "Stefan is an all-around horror guru and introduced me to Barry Keatinge, who was working with ['Re-Animator' filmmaker] Brian Yuzna on getting Herbert into some other entertainment forms, including comics," Seeley explained. "It all timed out perfectly and we were able to come up with a cool way to re-introduce Dr. West into comics in an official capacity. The plot was conceived by me, Barry and Brian, so Brian has his hands in it and did a lot in keeping Herbert totally in-character."
Once the "Re-Animator" arc wraps up, Seeley will shift the spotlight onto some of the supporting cast of "Hack/Slash" including Pooch, a semi-intelligent, four-legged beast that was sent by his masters, the extra-dimensional Lords of Nef, to kill Cassie Hack. Pooch has yet to complete his assignment, though, as he's currently living a content life in Wisconsin with Cassie's friends Chris and Lisa, who think he's some weird kind of dog. "Poor Pooch. He knows the Lords of Nef ain't gonna be happy that he didn't do his job," Seeley said. "Pooch is going to get his own issue coming up pretty quick, where we'll see that Pooch is more than just a creepy, ugly dog thing."
After his look at the series' supporting cast, Seeley kicks off the next big "Hack/Slash" arc, which sees the cops and a psychic named Muffy Joworski searching for Cassie and Vlad. In "Hack/Slash" #14, readers got to see one of Muffy's psychic visions, which seemed to be a call back to one of Cassie's earlier adventures -- only this time she wasn't slaying a Slasher, she was a Slasher!
"Clearly, what Muffy's seeing is wrong," Seeley remarked. "Or, maybe it's right? Hell, maybe that's what really happened and Cass is the crazy one!!"